Directed by: Fede Alvarez
Produced by: Rob Tapert
Screenplay by: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Jane Levy
Lou Taylor Pucci
Original Music by: Roque Banos
Cinematography by: Aaron Morton
Editing by: Bryan Shaw
Studio(s): Ghost House Pictures
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Entertainment (International)
TriStar Pictures (United States)
Release date(s): March 8, 2013 (South By Southwest Film Festival)
April 5, 2013 (United States)
April 18, 2013 (United Kingdom)
Running time: 92 minutes
Country: United States
Production budget: $17 million
Box office revenue: $81, 993, 674
Told you so! With regards to the reviews, in my short time back I've already been keeping pretty busy in getting up to scratch with the whole shebang. A window for cinema listings in Belfast is constantly open on my computer, and in the past couple of days, I've got down to seeing Iron Man 3 and The Hangover Part III (sequels abound!), and expect to see more along the lines of The Great Gatsby, Fast And Furious 6 and Star Trek Into Darkness in the next week. So, for all the latest yadda, keep your eyes posted!
The second of two films I saw during my leave of absence was this one, Evil Dead, the 2013 reboot of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy. For those of you don't know, I'm generally against the concept of remakes as a whole, for I feel that although they claim to be doing something different (more gore, nudity, drug use, blah blah!), they more often than not retread the same waters as the original and do nothing that they hadn't done already better. Take for instance that wretched Nightmare On Elm Street from a few years ago, the best thing to come out of that being that Rooney Mara had her first major lead role and has went on to be a fine actress. For Evil Dead, Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert (producer of the original films) are on board, and relatively unknown director Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez, who has made a number of short films in the past, was hand-picked to helm this project. Story wise, Evil Dead takes the central premise of the original, a group of young people out in a cabin in the woods (most recently subverted by last year's terrific The Cabin In The Woods), and works from there. Shall we dance?
To start with the good, I must say that I admire and respect the direction that Fede Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues have taken with this Evil Dead. The cabin in the woods premise is just that, a premise from which to build the picture from the ground up, as much of the proceedings evolve from taking this well-tread story into new places. The staging of this location as a borderline intervention for the character of Mia (Jane Levy), whose character has a history of drug addiction, automatically puts to question what is unfolding before the audience, making an interesting dynamic, given that Mia is the character whose perspective we see the picture from. In a tremendous star-making turn, Levy goes through a complete assault of the senses, physically, psychologically, literally, metaphorically, and carries the legitimacy of the piece on her shoulders. She plays a fine twist on the conventional 'scream queen' trope, depicting the conflict of Mia, confident in her plight and yet vulnerably prone to withdrawal symptoms, with an intelligence that goes beyond what one would generally expect from even the best of horror films. Lily Collins was originally signed to play the part, but frankly it would be hard to imagine anyone else doing the part of Mia after this performance, more proof that horror films are still a bastion for great performances for emerging young actresses, as opposed to the radical feminist critique of them being cast on the basis of exploitative titillation. Total unadulterated savagery is the name of the game here, and boy is it done with gravitas. Aaron Morton's cinematography is toned appropriately in terms of lighting, capturing the murky grime and dirt of the film's central location. Also, the editing by Bryan Shaw takes a page from some of the toughest films identified with the movement in French horror cinema known as New French Extremity. Shaw seems to take the part of Michael Myers in this process, approaching the editing as though he is stabbing through reels of film at the prospective audience. The original score by Roque Banos is another marvellous bit of work attached to this film. It takes traditional melodies and rhythm, but perverts them with a brutally heavy score that at once invokes the likes of Ministry's industrial force, Piere Schaffer's musique concrete experiments and the Messa De Requiem of Guiseppe Verdi. The vocals used throughout the film in particular have an in extremis feel, pushed to the nth degree of human possibility. The quieter pieces also have a very Trent Reznor sound in terms of the piano being used as a harmony of the heart rising to the cloud of foreboding tension that envelops the film's characters. Finally, Raimi and co have most definitely made the right choice in having Fede Alvarez nurture their baby. His decisions, such as following the original's effects consisting primarily of physical make-up, give the film a genuine sense of cerebral power. The make-up of this film is realistic and does everything to help make us 'believe' in what is going on, flesh and bone severed with suitable aplomb, and just the sheer amount of dirt on the characters, who go through hell (something often invoked in reviews, but here appropriate) during the course of the film. It's an enterprise of physical horror the likes of which is not often seen in mainstream films. Alvarez directs the picture with the natural confidence of a genre veteran and follows through with conviction on his artistic intent, delivering one of the finest and flat-out vicious examples of recent horror cinema.
Now, much as I loved this incarnation of Evil Dead, there is one particular problem (relatively small, granted) that deny this great film the status of outright masterpiece. The raison d'etre? Well, as far as characters are concerned, unlike the well-developed complexity of Mia, the rest of the characters unfortunately serve as fodder for some of the film's plentiful gruesome scenes. As such, while what they go through is unquestionably horrible, it lacks the weight necessary for us to empathise and get beyond the 'Holy Shit!' gut reaction. I remember when I saw the film with my esteemed colleague over at Danland Movies at one point trying to figure out how many lines Natalie (the blonde one) spoken or if indeed she had vocalised at any point before her proverbial 'scene of focused depravity.' We are unable to view these characters beyond this level, and I've taken to preferring to view them as manifestations of Mia's chaotic psychological state as opposed to anything physical, whether or not that is the filmmakers' intent.
Above and beyond four of the main characters being the caricature of Davy Jones' "chameleon, comedian, corinthian and (you get the point)...," Evil Dead is one of the strongest outings in recent horror cinema. It takes the central premise and goes completely in it's own direction, with the character of Mia having a lot of complexity, with Jane Levy delivering a terrific star-making performance. The savage aestheticism of the film is complimented in the departments of cinematography, editing, production design and original score, all of which contribute to the hellish atmosphere of the picture. Finally, Fede Alvarez was the perfect choice for directing this picture, his decisions, particularly going ahead with the tough physical make-up effects, give the film a real cerebral quality, and this, his debut film, is directed with confidence and conviction. As mentioned, I saw this with ma big homie over at Danland Movies, and, being big fans of the original, we were given a more than pleasant surprise and one of the most fun times I can remember having at the cinema. Both of us were reacting in a way most movies can never dream of having their audiences do, so, under the pretence that we represent the greater public of cinema-going (when I for one exist in a vacuum!), Evil Dead works. In a word: groovy!
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.4/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Groovy! (I'll shut up now!)